Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Testifying before the committee, autism mom Leanna George shared how CHIP has benefited her son Caleb, who has autism. Autism Speaks also joined hundreds of other children’s health advocates urging Congress for quick bipartisan action in support of a five-year extension of CHIP funding.
Originally introduced in 1997, CHIP serves as a bipartisan solution to securing a healthy future for children in low-income families who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private coverage or lack access to employer-specific coverage. Since its inception, the program has helped provide affordable, pediatric-specific coverage to almost 9 million children and reduced the number of uninsured children by 68 percent. With more than 95 percent of all children in American now enrolled in some form of insurance coverage, evidence shows how CHIP, together with Medicaid, is a smart investment in children.
Good news came this week as the Senate Finance Committee announced a deal to reauthorize funding for CHIP. Originally set to expire on September 30, 2017, this agreement reauthorizes the CHIP program for another five years. This extension is particularly important in light of the uncertainty surrounding the stability of individual insurance markets. Key findings published by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that without this federal funding, children would lose coverage as states would face budget pressures requiring them to discontinue or limit CHIP coverage. Without CHIP coverage, researchers have found that children with chronic conditions – including autism – would see increased costs.
Stabilizing the CHIP funding stream and protecting gains in children’s health coverage will remain a priority as Autism Speaks continues a commitment to increasing children’s access to appropriate intervention, services and resources following diagnosis with autism.